583 Atlantic Ave, Fort Story, VA 23459
Cape Henry Lighthouse (not the black and white one pictured, but rather the old relic from which the b/w lighthouse is viewed) is the first lighthouse that the United States of America made as a new country. This sentinel, completed in 1792, was built right next to the “First Landing” site where English settlers arrived in 1607. George Washington himself authorized the lighthouse construction and Alexander Hamilton oversaw the project.
As it is located within the fences of Joint Expeditionary Base Fort Story military base, you must go through security gates and a car inspection before proceeding to the lighthouse. (When arriving, simply inform the guards of your intent to view Cape Henry Lighthouse and follow directions from there. You’ll need to provide IDs for all occupants over 16, proof of vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. Failure to consent is cause for denial of access. More information concerning visitation times, fees, visitor passes, the car inspection, and lighthouse history is available on Preservation Virginia’s site, under Cape Henry Lighthouse.) You can climb to the top of this historic site for a 360-degree view.
If you plan on exploring the lighthouse, get ready to scale 191 steps (including a spiral staircase on the inside and narrow ladder at the top). There’s historical information along the way and a wonderful view from the glass top, making the climb well worth it. If you’re willing to spend a few bucks on sightseeing some history, I’d definitely recommend this spot. (Bonus: an afternoon spent on the beach is just a few minutes away.)
Travel tips for the day?
- Lighthouses are really cool. And the ones you can walk inside are even better. (And the ones you can walk inside that are also on military bases are even better at being cooler.)
- American history is worth your time. Or, history in general. Be willing to learn when you travel–don’t just get wrapped up in proving you did something.
- You should bring games, open up to a conversation, or prepare to come up with some other sort of entertainment for long drives. Like 20 questions, truth or dare, or any other crazy idea. Relax and be willing to have lots of conversation. The drive is long and other drivers are crazy, so remember to enjoy the people you’re with, the sights you’re seeing, and any other tiny tad bit of life that you endure. This is the only time you get to live this. Just don’t be in a hurry.